Have I just uncovered a scam of lookalike shops advertising on Instagram?
I've been bombarded by floral trendy shirts on Instagram ads. I thought to myself "they guessed it right", because I do love floral shirts. But I started to notice the same shirts in multiple ads using different shop names… Are non-european shops scamming the UK and US with trendy shirts you are very likely not to receive?
I started to notice some similarities: I opened Instagram, tapped to have a look at the shirts on the ad and this would boost Instagram algorithm to keep on showing me more patterned shirts.
The more shirts I looked, the more ads I received… Until I started to notice the same shirts in many different shops 🧐
So I decided to catalogue all the shops' urls and read the "about us" to see if there was any story behind the brand or an address…
This is when it became weird… The "about us" of the shops were exactly the same. Wait a minute, everything was the same!
So this is what I did:
- Open Instagram
- swipe, swipe, swipe
- receive the ad (at this moment the algorithm was on fire sending all the patterned/floral shirts to my feed)
- Clicked on the ad to save the url
- close Instagram
- repeat all over again
In less than 1 hour, I received the ads of the same shirts from 11 different stores.
All the 11 shops with the same footer links, same shirts and same about us 👇
We love every passion and interest on Earth because it's a reference to your UNIQUENESS
Okay, this is odd…
I kept on investigating and all the 11 shops have the same shirts, with same names and even the same SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) which is the code to track your inventory. It's a beautiful shirt... It's a shame 😞
In the beginning I wasn't under the assumption it was a scam, my good heart wanted the shirts and didn't want to believe, but how and why something like this would happen?!
I'll list below the 11 shops:
At this moment, after seeing Instagram ads under different shop names, Instagram algorithms probably started to realize I was super into floral/patterned things… I was receiving ads for everything with patterns. And the suspicious cycle continued!
The floral shirt scam wasn't a one-off thing. I also received multiple offers for a Japanese Embroided Bomber, again, same product in lookalike shops:
The bomber, by the way, is
but, what the heck is going on, Instagram?! The worst about this story is that the scammers do have good taste! The shirts and jacket are truly nice. Don't recommend buying though…
Think this is enough? It goes on!!
Just to confirm you read it right in the beginning, all this happened in one hour of opening Instagram, seeing the ad, clicking on it, closing Instagram and opening again etc.
This is not normal. This is not being done in good faith.
For a moment there I thought about people trying to set up online shops and selling their goods… but there is no address, the legal information is very poor, every website shares the same "intelectual property rights" e-mail and the footer links are variations of the same things.
I went after reviews and these are some of the Truspilot ones:
It gets worse…
I decided to google the exact phrase used in the about us, and I started to land in shops that don't exist anymore 😳
So, shops are disappearing?
At this point you have realised I'm a very curious person… I decided to look for a review about other lookalike shops, which mentioned a shop that has disappeared.
I kid you not. I've found one.
I was reading the reviews of "Clothing Shop Online" and one of the reviewers mentioned that it was similar to Pegpie.
So I go to Pegpie and guess what?!?!
At this moment the evidence suggests that
- Lookalike shops are selling the same products.
- Lookalike shops are targeting Instagram users with ads like crazy.
- Reviews suggest that these shops don't refund.
- There are no addresses on the websites and the contact us is a simple e-mail.
- All the legal information point to the same e-mail.
- Shops are shutting down their websites after a while with no explanation.
- Don't buy from these shops.
- Scammers do have good taste.
- Instagram seems not to give a 💩
- It seems to me, there is one massive warehouse in China or India where scammers are creating fake shops to sell the clothes. Some do deliver, some don't and they just don't refund. If they get shut down by any legal reason, they close the shop's website and operate the other lookalike. In the meantime they are making a shit load whilst firing Instagram ads like crazy.
If you've been targeted by them on Instagram, I hope this will help you make a decision (probably not to buy). Also with the hope that this scam can be properly investigated by the authorities.